The Church Is Like A Parade -- By: Leonard R. Payton
RAR 7:1 (Winter 1998) p. 101
The Church Is Like A Parade
All sorts of people have tried their hands at metaphors for the church. The Salvation Army is a vestigial, living metaphor from the nineteenth century. By contrast, it seems most fashionable at present to juxtapose the church with business, management, and marketing models. And while downsizing, which is so popular in business, doesn’t fit comfortably into church parlance, certainly there is great concern for upsizing and for church growth whereby one is able to point to a tangible increase in numbers.
All extra biblical metaphors for the church of necessity fall short of the reality, and mine will, no doubt, be inadequate too. I offer it, however, in the hope that it will highlight facets of the church that are frequently overlooked or drowned out in our time.
The church is like a parade. Adam and Eve are at the head of the column, and the last elect infant to be born is at the tail. In between are all the saints of history. The church has one chant as she marches that extends invariant from one end of history to the other. It’s the gospel: Christ died for sinners; He was buried; He rose on the third day; He was seen; we therefore have a hope of the forgiveness of sins and a bodily resurrection. This parade and its chant are inextricable from one another, and they are inexorable.
The parade has a specific route. Its beginning is the mysterious and kind intentions of God before the foundation of the cosmos. Its end is the Marriage Feast of the
RAR 7:1 (Winter 1998) p. 102
Lamb. A time comes for each marcher as he rounds that last bend that God welcomes him to that feast.
Before that last bend, however, there is a reviewing stand occupied by one man. He is not God. He is merely an impersonal viewer. We will call him “Mr. Now,” the present.
Mr. Now looks as far as he can see in one direction and finds frail, grizzled great-grandparents about to go around that last bend. But Mr. Now is not permitted to see the marvels they are about to become. He looks then in the other direction and sees infants just being born.
On first blush, Mr. Now is looking at about four generations. Yet, though he is not permitted to look around the last bend, he is very perceptive. After all, he has been watching this parade for a long time. When he looks at the great-grandparents, he sees the parents, grandparents and great-grandparents who formed them. And when he looks at the infants, he sees the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in their loins whom they will form. So at any one point in time, Mr. Now is looking at a contemporary church that encompasses about ten generations...
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